Mount Ventoux – Third Time Lucky

As with most great ideas, this one was born over a beer. Cycling buddy John and I were trying out a new micro-brewery in Nîmes last week and one of us brought up the idea of climbing Ventoux together. Up till that point I had not an ounce of desire to ascend that monster again this year, but since it was John and since I was drinking at the time, we agreed it might be nice thing to do.

And it was, believe it or not.

We ended up being a party of three, with John’s friend Mark joining us in Beaumes de Venise for our warm up. Here they are enjoying the wonderful paysage of Provence, and trying to avoid the sight of Ventoux straight ahead.

And after filling up the water bottles in Bédoin, the boys with their pre-suffer smiles on.

John, before the climb really started ramping up. How do I know this? No way I could ride and shoot at 10%!

Me, shortly after Chalet Reynard, 6 km from the summit.

I have to say that you never know how things are going to go on a ride like this. I haven’t done much more in the way of training than before, and I carbed up yesterday by drinking 750 ml of beer, with a two-glass-white-wine chaser, i.e. not very smart. Somehow though, I was full of energy and I never really hurt the whole way up. This, as you may remember, is in marked contrast to my last attempt at le Geant, where I met The Man With the Hammer somewhere up the hill from Malaucène. This time I felt strong and I had enormous (for me) amounts of stamina. If this is my peak, I hope I can hold on 3 more weeks till the Etape.

I am happy to report that I was only passed by these guys the whole way up.

The French Army cycling team – I’ve been dropped by lesser men. I reached the top in 1:45, which is, according to me, not too shabby. Here are some shots looking down from the top.

A few of the hundreds of riders who conquered Ventoux today.

A word on my fellow grimpeurs today. John, who has about 4500 fewer kilometers in his legs than me this year, finished right behind me, and Mark, who according to John has ridden even less, made it to the top in a respectable time as well. Hard men.

Click here for a YouTube playlist that Mark somehow had the energy to make.

It was blowing hard today and the wind was out of the north, which means frigid usually. We stayed up top till our teeth started chattering then descended down to Malaucène, on the north side.

Other than my personal best on the climb, I had my personal fastest on the descent, a wind-aided 79.3 kph. I had no idea I was going that fast till I glanced at the computer. I’m not sure it’s wise to be able to ride that fast on a bike.

The ride was not quite done when we hit the bottom of Ventoux, since the car was parked back in Beaumes. This meant another little climb…

…and possibly the prettiest 16 kilometers in Provence.

Only 3 more weeks till l’Etape and I’ve got a massive amount of fartleking to do before then. Now just have to remember my secret weapon for the big race – beer loading!

26 thoughts on “Mount Ventoux – Third Time Lucky

  1. I knew 79.3 kmh was hella fast, but I wanted to know exactly how nuts this was and entered the number into an online conversion tool. Yikes! 49.2 mph down a mountain with a fair number of sharp turns. That must have really helped you to focus on the task!

    Great pics and story. Along with Brian, you are the second person in my “blog universe” to climb Ventoux this week. I guess I need to get my butt over there and get after it as well. Sadly, I don’t see that trip any time in my near future.

  2. Thanks for the heads up on Brian’s article. I hadn’t read it. Sounds like he’s getting a fair amount of riding in on his trip, as you should, too. once you come over! Get those kids grown up and out of the house and buy a ticket. What could be easier?

    And yes, 79.3 km/h was fast. It had a different ‘gliding’ feel to it that made me feel I was levitating a little off the tarmac. That scared me a little, as you can image. The last thing I wanted to do was take off..

  3. Great Blog Post Gerry. What a great account of today’s ride. I’m so looking forward to riding Ventoux this August. Not that I’m compettive much, but you shouldn’t have mentioned you time. And I thought I would ride up Ventoux just for the fun of it.

    Love the pictures. Nicole is going to love riding through Provence. Thanks for sharing the map, as it will be a great guide for a nice day of riding.

    And what’s up with the cycling outfits of the France Military?

    • I thought you’d gravitate towards the time, since you asked me about it before. I’m looking forward to seeing how much you beat me by, by the way. It’ll give me something to shoot for next year.

      That ride from Malaucene to Beaumes de Venise (on the D90) is really beautiful, and there are a few ways to lengthen it, so you can stretch it out a bit. Amazing countryside.

      France’s Army doesn’t seem to have camouflage for Mt. Ventoux, I agree. I don’t know who they were trying to hide from, but it didn’t work.

    • I heard about your Aigoual ride. Love to do that with you guys some day. And yes, John cannot be trusted if he tells you he’s not in good shape. I don’t know where he gets the strength from.

      • Come on, I only just broke 1500kms training for the season and actually gained 2kgs (up to 83kgs) since Sunday’s Ventoux ride. Does that sound like someone who is in shape? (Gerry, I think it was the pizza and “pudding a la figue”).

  4. My goodness, 3 times up the beast!!
    I went for a charity ride on the weekend in Toowoomba, was feeling confident! Did a feeble 80 k’s, temperature ranged from 0 degrees through to 20 or so, had fog, rural undulating (I couldn’t even call them hills!) landscape with a max of 12% at one (very short point) and after I’d had 3 leg cramps thought I’d slow up and take some Gerry- esque photo’s and even they were lame….
    And no beer!
    The only saving grace from my effort was at least I got to ride alongside the Aussie cycling great Phil Anderson, well for about 100 meters at the start, and then again when he passed me wheezing at my 73 k mark ( he’d covered 103 at this stage) while he was pumping his pedals as though he’d just started off!
    Keep up the awesome job, love reading all of your stuff, and the photo’s are brilliant. Nice top speed too!
    Cant wait to be there Friday week…woo hoo!

    • I’ll bet you can’t wait, Steve, with 0 degrees! It’s full-on summer now, so you know what that means.

      Nice ride. Not many chances to pedal with (or behind…) a legend like Phil Anderson, probably. The closest I got was watching Sean Kelly pass me on the Paris-Roubaix ride when I was taking a whiz!

      Thanks for the kind comments on the blog. I hope my camera doesn’t bite the biscuit before l’Etape…been having all sorts of troubles with it recently.

      Hope to see you this summer.

  5. When do we get to see Robert’s “ride ” photos, we Love yours… and by the way are you working on a CHECKLIST… ( shouting )….. to ensure no miscues on the next ride…. wallet + wheel + Beer prep LOL….. ge’t her done !!

  6. Hey Gerry, missed you by a couple of days, we were up there on friday (with very different weather conditions – photos on Facebook). saw the Army team too, they were screaming downhill through the forest as we were grovelling upwards. And I won’t tell you how long it took to get my 105kg plus heavy steel tourer to the top, but I did enjoy the chocolat chaud and tarte aux myrtilles at Chalet Reynard!

    • Andres, I saw your photos and wondered if they were old ones from a winter ascent or something…looked miserable up there. Well done on getting all that meat up the mountain, too. I like the bike, by the way. My next machine will be a good steel frame for long hauls. Are you back in the UK now, or are you staying down?

      • Not winter, but friday! After my 1000+km ride down from Normandie I couldnt face the Ventoux on Thursday, so we did a flat 100km ride over to Pezanas and around Etang de Thau to stretch the legs. Then drove to Bedoin for the climb on friday, the weather on was pretty benign actually, cool and calm until cloud and wind at about 1600m.
        Yep, the bike was great, it’s a Kona Sutra and she really loves her work, very comfy and the disc brakes – wow!!
        Back in Lancaster now, but returning to Herault last fortnight in August for family holidays. Maybe I could tap up your mate with the bike shop and hire a road bike and escape for a few days?!

  7. Hi Gerry, how are you? I just discovered your blog today, and have found it very entertaining:-) I am an Aussie and live over towards Nice. I have enjoyed cycling all my life and despite a 20 year hiatus recently got back into racing. I think that I’ve probably done a few of the races that you have been in.
    On top of this, my wife is from a Town called Millau(I’m sure you know it – knowing you road the Mt. Lozere). I’ll be over that way towards the end of July for our yearly summer hols, so if you are keen for a bit of scenery just up the road, I know plenty of great rides including Mont Aigoul, Gorges du Tarn etc.
    I am also scheduled to ride L’etape(Alpes) however not sure I’ll get there yet(work commitments).
    Anyway, if you’d like a chinwag or at least catch up for a ride in a month and a bits time, then drop me a note!

    Cheers and keep up the super blog, very enjoyable, especially describing some of the same sensations I cab relate too:-)


    • Hi Earl,

      Thanks for the comments. I’m glad there are others going through the same pain as me!

      I have cycled through Millau once and have visited the bridge as well. Great area for riding, but big hills! It might be a hike to get over there without a car, but if I do I’d be happy to take a spin with you. Regarding races, the closest I got to Nice this year was St. Tropez for the Gran Fondo there. Did you ride that one?

      Hope work lets you get to l’Etape. I can’t believe how fast it is coming up after all the training and cyclosportives this year. I won’t know what to do with myself after it’s done, I imagine. Probably just start planning for next year 😉

      Where about do you live, by the way? We make it over that way once or twice a year for various reasons, it seems. I’ll be there on Aug 16th in fact, but just for the night to visit with my ‘coach’ and step-brother, Rob. I imagine you’ll be in Millau still anyway?

      And, since you’re an Aussie, may I direct you to a couple of long rides I did in your great land.

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